You Okay?

My grandson toddles toward the lonely playground. He’s eighteen months old and this morning, his sights are fixed on the metal swing set. 

I watch his precarious baby steps as he navigates the gravel path. Best that I stay within arm’s reach in case Grandson falls. Sure enough, he stumbles.

“You’re okay. I got you!” 

I grasp his outstretched hand before his knees scrape the ground. Then, I lead him by the hand while we walk to the swing set.

After I settle on the swing, I lift Grandson to  my lap and wrap my arm around his waist. He leans back, fearless and content as we swing higher and faster.

This child trusts me with his safety. No whining or wiggling to suggest he’d rather be anywhere but here. Ohh, to be a carefree child!

Throughout my life, I’ve seen the Lord’s mercies. He repeatedly rescues me from danger and cushions my falls. So I know his eye is on me, and his Spirit guides me. But,

I want to trust God more. To be content with the here and now when life’s events feels like nettles in my socks.

Whenever I hear—pandemic, protests, politics—my body stiffens. I grumble about social distancing, quarantine, masks, my canceled appointments—hair today, denied tomorrow.

I raise my hands in protest rather than prayer.

This isn’t the summer vacation I bargained for. This isn’t the retired life I’d anticipated. This isn’t the lifestyle I’d envisioned for my grown children. I want to see my parents without fear of infecting them with COVID19!

Dad says, “Could be worse!”

Today is worse.

It’s nine a.m. and I’m drenched in sweat as the mercury in my outdoor thermometer inches toward a hundred. I can tolerate the heat, but rolling power outages and Red Flag Warnings (to evacuate our home) are in effect while the not-so-distant wildfires paint the sky ash grey. Yesterday, the foothills looked like they were puffing a cigarette. Today, they’re a chain-smoker.

I inhale deep, before the winds shift south and the air smells like a stale smoking lounge. I worry for the firefighters. I ponder what I’d do if my house burned down.

My body is swinging in the breeze, but my disposition is teetering on the edge of a miry pit. God intervenes like the doting Father that he is.

“Karen, you’re okay. I got you.”

I want to believe you, Lord, but…. 

From where I stand on planet earth, it feels like you’ve abandoned your creation. Not that I’d blame you. A time out, with our noses on the wall, might do everyone some good. But right now, I’m not feeling okay. 

God knows me. And yes, he is patient. He brings to mind what my mentor, Loretta, has told me repeatedly. The eternal perspective that has pulled me up by the boot straps on more than one occasion, and helped me forge ahead by God’s grace. 

She’d point to the pandemic, the wildfires and the nettles in my socks and tell me, 

“Every circumstance is an opportunity for God to teach and change us.” 

Change us? How?

To become more like Christ—more loving, compassionate, kind, patient, forgiving, willing to serve, prayerful.

I inwardly squirm. “I don’t want to learn these lessons the hard way. Can’t I sit in my recliner and read the Bible and be changed?”

My grandson points to the sky, bringing me back to this sweet spot.

I follow his wide-eyed gaze.

“That’s a Red-Tail Hawk,” I tell him. “Birds use thermals to soar without flapping their wings.”

My grandson isn’t old enough to comprehend everything I say, but he’s taking it all in—his surroundings, my words, the tone of my voice, my actions. He’s getting to know me as well as life.

Spending time with someone will do that, you know. 

Grandson scoots off my lap and heads for the tall metal slide. He’s been there before. And he’s not afraid. He knows that grandma will be right beside him. 

 That’s a God lesson . . . even in this!

How to Run with Endurance

Are you exhausted from running the race marked out for you? Have your faith muscles been stretched further than you thought you could endure?

This year I learned, once again, the importance of FAITH when I had to endure a heart wrenching event. Followed by a continual avalanche of minor first-world problems that threatened to trip me.

The Hebrews Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11) show men and women who endured hardships where the physical reality—what they could see—often made no sense. And may have presented God as absent and unloving.

These people weren’t commended for who they were or what they accomplished. They were commended because they held onto their faith despite hardships.

Their faith moved them from a ‘contract faith’ which means I’ll follow God if He treats me well—to a relationship that surpasses hardships.

I learned this lesson when I was in my mid-thirties. I thought my faith was rock solid. Then I had three miscarriages in a two year span.

I accepted the first miscarriage. Life happens, right? Plus, I had two toddlers. However, grieving for my baby made me long for another one. The second miscarriage threw me in a downward spiral. Instead of praising God in the storm, I whined because my two best friends had babies. By the third miscarriage, I shook my fist at God.

“Why is this happening? Don’t you love me?”

I had a contract faith: I expected God to prove that He loved me by giving me what I wanted.

Then one night I cried out, “Lord, I trust you to give me a baby in your time. Or, fill my void with Yourself.”

I claimed Isaiah 27:13,14. “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord … Wait for the Lord; Be strong….”

Sometimes, all we can do is believe God and wait—for His guidance, His intervention, His promises.

That season of loss and—believing God—was a pivotal turning point in my faith. The Lord renewed my spirit and gave me His perfect peace. When I least expected it, He gave me a son … who was born premature, but that’s another faith lesson.

Remembering God’s faithfulness over the years enables me to run with endurance. Even in this … latest hardship.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

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Is God Any Less Maternal?

“Mommy!” 

When I heard the child holler, my eyes searched the grocery store’s produce section for that frightened voice as if he were my own child. The little guy stood, wide-eyed and flushed, next to the pumpkins. Before I could come to his aid, his mother rushed around the corner and embraced him.

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I thought about my own mom. When I was a wee child she’d come running whenever I called her name. She’d…

  • Rescue me from a yapping dog.
  • Kiss the boo boo on my scraped knee.
  • Console me at night if I was scared.
  • Smooth my warm brow when I was ill.
  • Watch me turn a cartwheel; listen to me jabber.
  • Defend me when Little Brother kicked me with his cowboy boots.

Mommy did this and more because I was her child and she loved me.

Is God the Father any less maternal toward His children?

From the time we’re born, He woos us and waits for us to recognize that we’re lost and need Him. The moment we holler, Jesus…for there is no other name under heaven whereby we can be saved…He rescues us. Adopts us into His family. Loves us with an everlasting love where nothing can snatch us from God’s hand. But our relationship doesn’t stop there.

Think of a child summoning his mother when he’s alarmed or in need. Should God’s children do anything less?

When we call on the powerful name of Jesus, we’re able to flee temptation and obey the Father’s will. He restores broken lives; strengthens us to do all things. In Jesus’ name, Satan and his demons cower and flee.

However, this same Almighty God, is tender, protective; devoted. In scripture, He compares Himself to…

  • cochin-1415260_1280A mother hen who longs to gather her chicks to care for them.
  • As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.
  • A mama bear jealously guarding her cubs.

Assured of God’s love and Who we belong to, the Bible tells us to call the name of the Lord…often and with confidence…when we’re afraid, grieving, in pain, confused; anxious.

Why then, would I ever choose to not call the Lord’s name? Do I only cry for Jesus when I need Him?

When I consider Who Christ is and what He accomplished on the cross, that joyous, mind-blowing thought makes me want to shout God’s praises every day….

Even in this maddening world.

 

Images: Pixabay

 

Emptiness Allows Room for God

My mentor, Loretta, texted. “God has this. It’s not all on you.”

I tossed a package of decongestant pills and cough drops into my suitcase. “I hope so because I’m empty.”

I’d been ill for two weeks. My friends prayed I’d be well enough to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. My health improved in the nick of time. Whether I could endure the nonstop, four-day conference remained a mystery.

The first afternoon, I sat outside on a bench with a plate of meatballs and diced cheese. Writers, editors, and agents mingled beneath the budding trees. I scanned the smiling faces. There were people I knew. Others I wanted to meet. However, the thought of small talk exhausted me. I leaned back and stared at a tree adorned with pink blossoms.

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“Lord, I can’t do this.”

And a small voice whispered. “I got this. Go rest.”

If I’d been less empty, I might have argued. “God, I payed a lot of money to come here. I need to get the most from this conference. I have to talk to….”

An empty person doesn’t get far on their own strength. I went to my room and napped.

emptywwordsAt dinner, I went through the buffet line and searched for a place to sit. I had no agenda. My energy remained low. That’s when I saw an editor I wanted to meet. He sat at a table in the corner of the room. I asked to join him. We talked for an hour and he prayed for me.

I went to sleep that night, assured God had my back. It wasn’t all on me.

That’s how the weekend unfolded. I never plotted or panicked. I’d walk into the crowded dining room and notice an empty chair and clean placemat at one of the tables as if the Lord had reserved that one spot for me.

During coffee break, I’d turn around and find someone I wanted to meet or thank.

It’s difficult for a control freak to stay empty. However, emptiness kept me from being full of myself. Oh, that I’d be empty more often!

Emptiness allowed room for God to fill me and lead the way. I experienced…

“God’s grace that is sufficient when we’re weak.”
“The joy of the Lord is my strength” when someone prayed for my renewed energy.

Then God surprised me beyond my imagination. I met Francine Rivers.

She’s written many books including one of my favorite, Redeeming Love. Her book made a huge impact on me. And I’ve given Redeeming Love to many women especially when I served as a jail chaplain for female prisoners.

Meeting Francine Rivers blessed me. She’s a genuine lady. But the opportunity to talk with her felt like another God moment. My empty jar overflowed with love for Him. I wanted to stand on my chair and sing the Hallelujah Chorus.

Lord knows that would have emptied the room!

 

http://francinerivers.com/books/redeeming-love/

http://writers.mounthermon.org

Jar photograph: http://jennywredephotography.com

 

When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

 

I begged God to come to the rescue.

My prayers weren’t for me, but someone else who needed to know that God is real. He cares about every detail of our lives.

Please God! Show Yourself in a mighty way that will remove all doubt; strengthen faith.

I stopped praying when a wail rose deep within that person and hit the room like a Tsunami.

God didn’t step in to save the day.

So it was left to me—or so it seemed—to make My presence known and comfort a crushed spirit.

Although God’s purposes (Romans 8:28,29) are certain, I knew these words would fall on deaf ears. For even I struggled to make sense of the situation.

When the person’s pain morphed into anger…
I made excuses for God; explained why He might have allowed this “unfair thing” to happen.

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Have you ever had to defend God?

Or fortify someone’s faith instead of allowing God to do the work—how ever slowly?

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

I know this to be true. Multiple miscarriages once left me flailing like a fish out of water.

My faith remained intact, but anger and bitterness enslaved me. I kept God at a distance because my unmet expectations had led to disappointment with Him.

However, that season of pain showed me that God remains faithful even when I am faithless.

The Lord also used my miscarriages to eradicate my misperceptions of His character, and the false beliefs that I was….

–Entitled to get what I want, when I want, because I’m a Christian.
–Able to manipulate God with my “good deeds.”

Years of trying to earn God’s love and approval had also led to the assumption—God doesn’t love me when bad things happen or He appears silent.

Finally, sick of my own belly aching and missing the Lord, I confessed my anger and false accusations.

I asked God for His peace and claimed Psalm 27:13,14

“I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.”

Those faith lessons came to mind as my friend clenched fists and spewed venomous words. But my own experience told me, “This wasn’t the right time.”

Besides, spoon-fed faith won’t result in spiritual maturity. Eventually, folks have to learn for themselves that…

  • God is near,
  • He’s able to save
  • He uses all things to teach and mold us

Until we come to a place we can submit to God’s sovereignty. And trust Him even in the senseless, worst of times.